Friday, 29 March 2013

Why I write

I've had few days off work and it's given me some mind space to think about why I started writing this blog and what I really wanted to write about. I'd say I was good at my job, but I'm not the most technical engineer. I know people with a greater depth of knowledge on networking, or storage or virtualization, but I've come to realise that it was never my goal to know as much as possible about Netapp or Puppet. I'm much more motivated by the problems you can solve with computing technologies and not the details of the technology itself. 

I started university on a Mechanical Engineering degree. Now as a kid I had used computers ever since I could get my hands on the school BBC Micro. But computer guys were geeks. I'd had seen the films and anybody who liked computers was geek and had no friends. I wanted friends... So, I also had a talent for design, and an interest in science so Mechanical Engineering was a logical choice. And the university brochures always showed engines of fast cars and jet engines. So obviously this is what I'd be designing when I'd finished... I was relatively happy in my choice but a friend was doing Electronic Engineering and something about it just seemed more attractive to me. And I was always one with ideas of things I wanted to build, but I quickly realised that in Mechanical Engineering you can't actually build a jet engine or a sports car, by yourself, in a bedroom. You would more likely be designing a piston or a drive shaft, and the 'big thing' would need big team with big resources. But with electronics, you can have an idea and implement the whole thing with much less resources. 

The idea to switch degree came when I was reading 'The Gap into Vision: Forbidden Knowledge' (the second book in the best series I've read to date). A group of space pirates were on a ship and there was a computer engineer who had fallen out with the Captain. He told the Captain he had planted a virus in the ships system so that if he was killed, the virus would spread and they would be unable to navigate their ship. The Captain was enraged but thought he was bluffing, so he killed the engineer anyway. It turns out that the engineer wasn't bluffing and the virus did unleash itself and even after they isolated the various components and cleaned them, the virus kept coming back. Then they discovered that the virus was actually in the hardware itself. 

OMG, how very ingenious! This was cool stuff - well not the killing part - but method he'd used to plant the virus. It occurred to me the with electronics and software, I could do so much. My powers would be limitless

I switched to Electronic Engineering. By the time I finished I had developed a taste for Linux and a little while later I was considering problems that could only be solved by developing software. Damn. I was back to being a geek. It seems you can't escape your calling. 

Should I have been a software developer? Well, no. In my view, software developers aren't as exposed to the day to day challenges of providing IT services to a business function. In IT Operations I'm regularly solving problems that impact the business and customers on a shorter time frame. This provides an opportunity to understand how to build IT services to serve people better. However it often seems that there's too much focus on the technology of the solution and not enough understanding of the problem. 

So I write because I'm an engineer who believes that the real problems are solved by better engineering and not just better technology. 

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